A visit to Bardsey in Haslemere, home to the NGS organiser for Surrey

The strawberries and cream meadow

The strawberries and cream meadow - Credit: Leigh Clapp

Enjoy the wafting colours at Bardsey in Haslemere, home to the NGS organiser for Surrey, Maggie Boyd, and husband David, where clouds of poppies contrast with ribbons of lavender in a glorious summer scene

Over time David and Maggie have become keen gardeners

Over time David and Maggie have become keen gardeners - Credit: Leigh Clapp

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2016


Need to know

Bardsey, Haslemere GU27 1BS

Open Saturday July 2, Sunday July 3, Saturday July 23 and Sunday July 24 (11am to 5pm).

Admission: Adults, £5; children free.

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For more information, see ngs.org.uk


Since moving to Surrey in June 1995, after living in both Yorkshire and the Netherlands, Maggie and David Boyd have been revitalising the garden around their 1920s house. Starting as novice gardeners, they have grown alongside their garden into passionate exponents of this all-consuming pastime – to the point that Maggie is now the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) organiser for Surrey and her husband David the treasurer.

“When we arrived, the garden was a little fazing as it is two acres,” remembers Maggie. “But I love the fact that you are always looking forward in gardening and it will always be better next year!”

Today, that perseverance has certainly paid off, as they are now the owners of a truly beautiful garden at Bardsey, characterised by its contrast of formal borders and meadow-like flower beds. Both very hands-on, with decisions and plans discussed together, David tends to focus on the practical elements and shape, with Maggie more on the aesthetics and planting.

“We both love working and being in the garden,” she continues. “Unfortunately, we can’t share the ‘working’ by opening the garden but we can share the enjoyment of ‘being’ in it, and we love to see and hear the reaction of people, especially when they are standing beside us and they don’t know it is ours!”

Going Dutch

Although their garden had been well maintained by the previous elderly owners, it was clear when they arrived that it needed some maintenance and new direction. So, after living with things as they were for a while, plans began to formulate for the redesign. Maggie could see great potential, mainly gained from visiting gardens on their travels.

“I really enjoy visiting other gardens in the UK and the rest of the world and always come away with new ideas,” she says. “I think that I have been inspired quite a lot by the beautifully kept Dutch gardens, in particular Keukenhof and the Palace of Het Loo, but the Dutch will always tell you that they have been inspired by the English gardens.”

Among the changes they made, the border at the rear of the house was renewed and a lovely old path, discovered after trimming the holly hedge, was reinstated. New flower beds were added and different areas developed gradually. Guiding the look of the garden is Maggie’s love of colour and scent.

“I don’t think of myself as a plantsman, more that I am led by colour, texture and height,” she adds. “I do a lot of tapestries and embroidery and can carry colours in my head.”

It’s the front garden that we particularly love, with its fragrant herb and rose parterres, billowing with clouds of meadow flowers through summer to autumn, framed in neatly-clipped box and bordered by ribbons of intensely-rich purple ‘Hidcote’ lavender. The Dutch influence, of rectangular hedging, dense planting, efficient use of space and bright colours, is clearly referenced in this part of the garden, though softened with the looseness of the wildflowers.

“We use the annual Pictorial Meadows pastel mix from de Jager that is designed for fertile soil and has a beautiful ‘strawberries and cream’ blend of white and pink with a scattering of blue, from Shirley poppies, Ammi majus (Bishop’s Flower) and cornflowers,” says Maggie. “It’s a highlight to watch the bees and butterflies and the changes in colour. We used to do bedding begonias each year but, back in 2012, we decided to experiment with a meadow effect in the parterre and it has been so successful – better value and we don’t deadhead either, just leave it, so it’s quite hassle-free.”

Taking the tour

In contrast to the linear formality of the buxus hedging, there are also colour-themed herbaceous borders to one side of the front garden, planted in shades of pink, purple and white. Giving an element of height to the scene are timber poles connected with rope swags and adorned with the vigorous climber, prolific carmine-pink Rosa ‘American Pillar’.

The gardens to the rear of the property take on a different air again, with intensified colour (at its peak in late-summer) in a hot border of reds, oranges and yellows, inspired by a visit to West Dean, stretching along under the edge of the terrace. “I hate pink and yellow together, which is why I have separated the hot colours here, away from the front garden,” Maggie adds. Reaching up above the terrace are fiery lilies, flat-topped achilleas, frilly starbursts of monarda and golden rudbeckias, all framing the seating area with invigorating hues.

As the back garden slopes down, gradually the intense colours meld into cool, tranquil greens with a barbecue seating area under a shady oak, fringed with hydrangeas and hostas, and then, finally, you discover the hidden ‘Dingly Dell’, a natural-looking oasis of ponds and shady areas. Drainage problems in the bottom of the garden, which had once been part of the mere in Haslemere, were tackled early on by the creation of a series of five clay-lined ponds, fed by natural springs, surrounded by an undulating mini landscape that is now much drier. Mown grass paths lead to a decked seating platform where you can enjoy watching dragonflies skimming over the tranquil water.

“The final area is the kitchen garden where we have vegetable plots and fruit cages,” adds Maggie. “We produce an abundance of crops, from peas, corn and asparagus to redcurrants and gooseberries.”

Each year, the Boyds enjoy opening the garden through the National Gardens Scheme and raising money for charity – and although the garden is now pretty much set, there is always some new project being implemented, such as a prairie border, plants to be propagated and replaced, or space found for the latest exciting new find.

“Men generally like the ponds and the vegetables, and women the parterre, herbaceous borders and roses; and everyone loves the teas and cakes!” laughs Maggie. “When you are in your own garden all the time, you don’t appreciate what you have, so seeing it through other people’s eyes is always enlightening.”


Get the look

• Create parterres filled with the wafting softness of meadow flowers

• Go for annual and perennial meadow mixtures, using blends of native and non-native hardy plants, shown to such glory at venues such as the London Olympics and the Eden Project

• Separate areas of the garden with different colour themes

• Select your plants for colour and texture, and plant them in drifts for maximum impact

• Include decorative detail to draw the eye across the garden and complete the vignette with focal points such as an urn amongst the softness of the meadow flowers, David’s handmade metal plant supports, or the addition of quirky bird sculptures

• To improve the soil and suppress weeds, add mulch regularly. At Bardsey, the rose beds and herb garden are covered with composted bark each year and the rest is mulched with compost


Opening your gates…

Interested in opening your garden for the NGS? Well, read on…

“We are always looking out for new gardens of interest, quality and that are well-maintained,” says Maggie. “I am hoping to get more small gardens to open for us, but we need 45 minutes of interest so that’s a challenge in a small space. To solve this, we try and get several gardens in the same area to open together.”

Not only is it a chance to share your garden with others but also to raise much-needed funds for charities, too.

“I think it is amazing how much money we raise for our charities,” adds Maggie. “A total of £2.5m last year in England and Wales!”

• For more information on opening your garden for the NGS, pay a visit to their website at ngs.org.uk